How to Create A Sales Plan That Actually Works

David Beckam

blue and red pencils on top of a sales graph

Every successful business creates a sales plan.

Have you created one for your business?

A sales plan that works accomplishes all of these things:

  • Provides tactical direction for your sales team
  • Sets business goals
  • Defines tactics and prepares roles and responsibilities
  • Measures your progress
  • Increases business revenue

Many sales plans fall far short, however.

Some business owners worry that sales plans are too complicated, so they just set business goals and don’t specify tactics, target audiences, or potential obstacles. Most of those businesses struggle to grow because their plans are too generic.

We’ve built sales plans for numerous businesses over the past 15 years. We’ve learned that detailed, specific plans can significantly impact our businesses, while generic plans are rarely helpful. We are sharing our insights and learnings in this guide.

So, whether you’re launching a new business, developing your business plan, or growing an existing business, this guide will help you create an effective sales plan that works.

How to create an effective sales plan

Here are nine steps to creating an effective sales plan that works:

1. Define your mission and sales goals

You may have written a business plan that you think can serve as your sales plan.

Business plans and sales plans are similar, but their scope is different.

A business plan explains what you’re doing, while a sales plan explains how you’ll do it. For example, a business plan might state that you intend to achieve $5 million in sales by the end of your third year in business. The sales plan will describe how you’ll do so.

So, start by setting your goals if you haven’t yet done so.

When you consider goals, consider your business’s purpose and how you can refine it to fit your sales goals. Give your sales team a defining factor that will push them to be productive and help them achieve sales goals.

Your sales team needs to know the goals you’ve set and how their efforts will help your company grow. This will help unite and motivate your team to be more productive, give them a more precise direction, and avoid confusion.

When developing your sales goals, be as specific and realistic as possible and set achievable timelines. This will prevent your team from burning out. You can set aggressive goals that are achievable with a strong effort. But it’s rarely a good idea to set outrageous goals that no team can achieve. That would only set up your team to fail.

2. Identify and understand your target market

Knowing your target market is essential for your sales plan. This will help you better understand the audience you wish to reach and create better tactics to attract and convert them.

Be as specific as you can when defining your target audience. Creating buyer personas can help you personalize your marketing funnels to appeal to them better.

For example, instead of creating a general description of your target audience, make two or three buyer personas to understand them fully as consumers. This will help you create a tailored marketing plan to help you achieve your sales goals.

3. Assign roles and responsibilities to your sales team

Choose someone to lead your sales team. Then, define their roles and the general tasks they need to perform to keep them guided.

Identify the people on your sales team and their corresponding roles in creating a structure they can follow. Establishing roles and responsibilities early on helps your team save time from assigning people per task throughout the year.

If your business is small, people may wear many different hats throughout the year. So you’ll have a combination of full-time and part-time salespeople on your team. Be sure to delineate their responsibilities and priorities, as they will constantly be pulled in other directions.

4. Outline tools and resources

Specify the resources and tools available for you to use during the year. Include your sales budget, the tools and resources you will need, and how you plan to use these tools and resources to achieve your sales goals.

Be as specific as possible when writing down your resources and tools to allocate the budget properly.

For example, if you plan to adopt CRM software to help manage your sales process, specify how the CRM can improve your team’s efficiency.

5. Specify your unique value proposition

You’ll need to articulate your unique value proposition (UVP) to meet your sales goals. Your UVP separates your business from the competition.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do our customers buy from us?
  • What makes us different from our competitors?
  • What deters other customers from buying our products or services?
  • How can we improve our products and services?

When defining what makes your business unique, highlight what it can do for your customers and how it can make a difference in their lives.

6. Plot your marketing strategy

Now that you understand your target audiences, what makes you unique, and the goals you want to achieve, it’s time to create your marketing strategy.

Consider what tactics work best for your target audience, the lead-generating tools you need, and the triggers you can leverage to create a sale. Study your competitors and businesses in related industries, and pick the tactics that could also apply to your business.

7. Set the budget

Like any other strategy in your business, your sales plan should have an ample budget to run effectively.

Your sales budget will include compensation (salary plus commission), training, tools and resources, prizes, team bonding activities, travel and food costs, and miscellaneous expenses.

Consider the following elements when setting your sales budget:

  • How much is your business earning in a year? What is the general financial overview of the company?
  • What are your company’s liabilities, assets, and equity?
  • How is your business’s cash flow for a certain budgeting period? Are you overspending or profiting more recently?

Sort your financial documents and see where you can cut back on unnecessary expenses to aid your sales and marketing strategies.

8. Create a prospecting list

Your prospect list is a directory of potential customers that can benefit from your products or services. It can be a time-consuming process, but it’s vital to the success of your sales plan.

You can find prospects in many places, including:

Start by creating a spreadsheet and including people’s contact information so you can reach out to them by cold email outreach.

9. Measure your progress

As with any actionable plan, tracking your progress is essential to see where you can improve and adjust accordingly. This is why it’s vital to set measurable goals and assign specific metrics to make progress-tracking easier.

For example, standard key performance indicators (KPIs) include gross profit margins, return on investment (ROI), conversion rate, and more. Tracking these KPIs help you determine if your sales strategies are performing as planned.

Five types of sales plans

There are many available sales plan templates to choose from on the Internet. But you still need to know which type suits your sales needs first. Here are five common types of sales plans:

  • New product sales plan. This sales plan is used when you’re launching a new product. This plan helps you create a roadmap for marketing your new product and generating revenue.
  • Revenue-based sales plan. This sales plan allows you to focus on revenue-generating actions to achieve a specific revenue goal. This helps you to improve conversion rates and close more deals for your business.
  • Sales plan for specific sales. A specific sales plan uses varying tactics to approach and convert prospects into paying customers. Methods of conversion include cold email follow-ups, meetings, and calls.
  • Target market sales plan. If you wish to enter a new market, then a target market sales plan helps generate ideas and marketing strategies to enter a new market. This outlines tasks and creates target metrics to help expand your business into a new market.
  • Time frame-based sales plan. A time frame-based sales plan is centered around hitting sales goals within a specific time frame. One famous example is the 30-60-90 days sales plan wherein a new goal must be achieved every 30 days.

You can find many sales plan resources on the Internet, such as templates, to help you easily create one for your business. But remember that there is no one-size fits all sales plan. Every company has unique needs and goals. So, focus on investing time to create a quality sales plan that helps your business achieve your sales goals.

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